October 6, 2004


Iran analysis: Israel's options (Gerald Steinberg, 10/05/04, THE JERUSALEM POST)

Israeli policy is based on assessments of likely Iranian capabilities, decision-making processes, and current activities. Although Iran is not classified as an enemy, a radical Islamic regime in which officials declare their intention of "wiping Israel off the map" and support Hamas, Hizbullah, and other terror groups involved in mass attacks, must be taken very seriously. The addition of a nuclear capability and a ballistic missile delivery system beyond the current Shihab-3 deployment constitutes a red line for Israeli decision makers.

Based on this assessment, four options can be identified, each with its own risks and potential benefits:

1. Do nothing and wait for internal change in Iran, allowing for a stable deterrence relationship. [...]

2. Hope for military action from the United States, perhaps in cooperation with Europe. [...]

3. Unilateral military action (as in the case of Osirak in 1981). [...]

4) Negotiation of a "grand bargains" in which Israel would give up its own deterrent option in exchange for "international guarantees" on Iran. [...]

This analysis shows that there are no good options for Israel, and each scenario has considerable risks. In November, when the crucial review of Iran's program will take place, there is a small chance that the members of the IAEA and the UN Security Council, led by the US and Europe, will impose sanctions or even launch a military strike. But the odds of either are small, and then Israel will have to decide on its own.

As the leader of the free world we have an obligation to act so that Israel doesn't have to.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 6, 2004 3:44 PM

The recent announcement of the sale of 500 bunker-busting bombs to Israel indicates that the Administration has decided otherwise.

A likely scenario would be for Israel to bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities and the U.S. to veto the inevitable UN resolutions afterward.

In parallel, before and after the raid the U.S. works to promote regime change in Iran.

As the JP article says, there are no "good" options.

Posted by: Eugene S. at October 6, 2004 4:33 PM

No reason Israel shouldn't do some heavy lifting in the greater war. They would be our proxy, all nations would know it, but it would provide Bush with political cover if it has to be done before 11/3.

Posted by: JimGooding at October 6, 2004 4:45 PM

I'll take Door Number Three, Alex.

Posted by: PapayaSF at October 6, 2004 6:12 PM

The Iranian threat to wipe Israel off the map shows that their support for the Palestinians is phony. Very simply, if they wipe Israel out, they wipe the Palestinians out.

Posted by: Henry IX at October 6, 2004 6:53 PM

No one in the Muslim world cares about the Palestinians, except as housekeepers, gardeners, and janitors. And fodder.

Attacking Osirak was a bold stroke, with only a small risk to Israel proper. Attacking Iran is another matter. The mullahs will fight back, unless they are dealt with. And an Israeli attack is one event which could snuff out the homegrown tide against the mullahs.

However, the alternative is unacceptable, and even the Europeans know it. While they might dither because of their contracts in Iran, they know that Iran will point its missiles at them because trying to intimidate the US is a sucker's game.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 6, 2004 9:23 PM

Also, Iranian missiles might be able to hit the EU, whereas they won't have the range to hit the US for quite some time, and the US has already started deploying a Missile Defense system.

The Israelis have time to wait, to see if something changes in Iran, but if nothing does, eventually Israel will have to attack Iran.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 7, 2004 1:53 AM

Since Bush's order to invade Iraq cut off a major source of money for the suicide bombers strafing Israel and the absence of WMD found has actually hurt Bush's ability to call for war elsewhere (it was still a good call, this is a failure of Bush's political people, not his wartime decision making) it wouldn't be out of line to ask Israel to return the favor by solving our problem in Iran, especially, as suggested above, we veto the resolutions to condemn Israel.

Posted by: MarkD at October 7, 2004 8:04 PM

The key is the Iranian people. They need to know that their leaders are playing a dangerous game. They need to know that if Iran uses a nuclear weapon against anyone, or provides a nuclear weapon to someone else who uses it, then Teheran and a few other major cities will be destroyed. They need to know that, whether they like it or not, they are responsible for the government they allow to remain in power.

Posted by: J Baustian at October 8, 2004 2:05 AM